A survey sponsored by Intel and quoted by Computerworld magazine found that 75 percent of U.S. adults surveyed believe that mobile telephone manners have gotten worse since 2009, and 95 percent of adults say they've witnessed poor mobile behavior first-hand, whether it's texting while driving or using a mobile phone in a public restroom.
About 19 percent admitted having bad habits themselves.
I asked readers of the Times-Gazette web site (t-g.com) for their feelings on the matter.
"Personally," wrote web site user Evil Monkey, "I hate when someone is at the register at a checkout line on the phone while fumbling for their checkbook or credit card trying to pay. I don't really care to hear a conversation on how her neighbors' dog keeps having running bowel moments in her yard. (especially when I was in line purchasing chocolate, beef stew and cream chipped beef)."
AmericanWoman complained about mobile use at the supermarket:
"My sister worked at Kroger for a while at the register," she wrote. "She would tell the customer the total amount due of their purchase while the person was chatting away on their cell phone and the person would not hear her. Then she would say a second time to them of how much money they owed for their groceries and once again the person would not acknowledge her. Then she would get mad and just stand there staring at the person when they finally would look up and say... 'How much do I owe?' By this time, she would just point at the amount of the screen. I know this made her very mad, since it happened quite often.
"I have also been trying to get by someone on a grocery aisle and I would say 'excuse me' .... The person would keep chatting away without even noticing me ...."
"Anywhere you are conducting business is a time to have your phone put up," wrote mytaxesaremine. "To me, it's like cutting in on a conversation. At one time, it was a status [symbol] to have a cell phone, but now everyone has one, so you only show your ignorance by having it to your ear talking. I wish I could get a scrambler and turn it on when someone was being rude by using the phone while in a place of business."
ReadyAIMfire has a different perspective:
"I mean no disrespect to you if I am talking on my phone in the grocery store," wrote ReadyAIMfire. "I work 40 hours a week. I work when you're ususally home having dinner with your family or helping your kids with their homework. My home time and time with my child is precious, so if I can squeeze in a call to my Grammie (who lives a thousand miles away and I don't get to see on Sunday after church) while I am grocery shopping, then so be it. So sorry to upset your boundaries. You don't have to listen. I speak in a tone as to not draw attention to myself. I pay attention so as to not block the aisle while choosing produce, and I hang up once I get in line to pay for my goods. I'm minding my business, you can certainly mind yours."
"Yes," said Bird, "you may get a call while you are in the grocery store. A grocery store is a busy place, so pay attention to what is going on around you. Never talk on the phone when you are at the register. Aside from this being common courtesy, you should really pay attention if you are about to spend money."
"If the call is social, it can wait," wrote equinebriefs. "If it is truly important, please at least excuse yourself from line, the restaurant, church, a meeting, or whatever. The rest of us DO NOT wish to hear you conduct business boastfully, no matter how proud of yourself or overly confident you may be ...."
Bird is bothered by what he or she calls the "blue-tooth shriekers." Some cellphone users have earpieces linked to their mobile phones using wireless Bluetooth technology. This allows them to carry on a conversation without being seen to hold a phone up to their ear, and that can lead to confusion.
"Many times I have been out someplace to hear somebody nearby look directly at me and yell, 'Well, Hi there!'
"'Uh, hello,' I reply.
"They look at me brightly. 'How ya doing?' they shriek.
"'Um, fine, I guess. Do I know you from somewhere?'
"The friendly look turns to one of disgust. 'Oh, fine, fine. I just have some weirdo trying to talk to me.'"
Bird notes that many mobile phone users raise their voices to an extent that isn't necessary with today's technology.
PrpleHze believes that mobile phones shouldn't be used for casual conversation:
"I ... hate it when people are just chatting on cell phones for no apparent reason. That is my biggest peeve. I have a cell phone, but it is for emergencies, not to call to see 'what's up.' That can wait until I'm home. I have a Tracfone, so I don't have a monthly bill. But I don't see the need to have my phone glued to my head at all times."
Some users, while not defending specific rude behaviors, came to the defense of mobile phone use. AmericanWoman wrote this:
"I feel like if a person has their cell phone on vibrate and it is not bothering anyone around them, whether it be in a restaurant or wherever, then I am perfectly OK with that. My father always taught me to have respect of others ... to say 'yes ma'am' or 'no ma'am,' to say 'thank you,' et cetera. Everyone that owns a cell phone should use the same common courtesy in public places and when driving in traffic."
"I think some folks get a little too upset over the whole deal," wrote OMYI. "I enjoy talking on the phone while I'm shopping. I don't really like shopping, and it makes the whole ordeal pass by more quickly. I will stop, though, when it's time to pay. I am not loud and I use a hands-free set so I can get finished more quickly.
"I don't really think the cell phone/technology is the issue. It is the rudeness that is the common factor. I don't like rudeness, cell phone or not. I see plenty of people being discourteous who are not even on the phone."
Lazarus's pet peeve is someone texting while talking to him.
"You should be allowed to rip the phone from their hands and stomp it to pieces," wrote Lazarus. "I settle for just walking away."
We'll save for another column the issue of cell phone use while driving, which brought out an interesting discussion on whether one gender is worse about this than the other.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.